The Housing Chronicles Blog: Builders asking for own $250 billion bailout

Monday, November 24, 2008

Builders asking for own $250 billion bailout

With bailout season in full swing, the nation's home builders are now asking for their own bailout -- a $250 billion package called 'Fix Housing First' that would combine more generous (and genuine) tax subsidies and funds to buy down mortgage rates to increase affordability. From a Wall Street Journal story:

The builders' lobby is ramping up its sales pitch for a $250 billion stimulus package called "Fix Housing First," arguing that financial markets won't recover until home prices stop falling. They are calling for a generous tax credit for home purchases and a federal subsidy that would lower a homeowner's mortgage rate.

Congress resisted a similar effort to pass a larger tax credit earlier this year, instead creating a $7,500 credit for new-home purchases that had to be paid back over 15 years, effectively extending an interest-free loan.

Builders are promoting the campaign with full-page newspaper advertisements, but face an uphill battle, with critics suggesting the proposal is too expensive and that it too heavily promotes home purchases rather than addressing loan modifications for delinquent homeowners...

The homebuilders' proposal would offer home buyers a tax credit equal to 10% of the home's value, capping it at $22,000, nearly three times the $7,500 credit Congress offered to new buyers earlier this year. Builders say the earlier credit didn't work because it wasn't big enough and had to be repaid...

One idea with broader support -- but with a potentially bigger price tag -- is an interest-rate buy-down that would allow existing homeowners to refinance to lower rates. Chris Mayer, senior vice dean of Columbia Business School, has suggested that the government push interest rates down to 5.25% for homeowners who prove that they can afford to live in their new homes and can document their income.

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